Masks may provide more protection than a coronavirus vaccine, says the director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.
Dr Robert Redfield was one of the top health officials testifying on the US Government's COVID-10 response before a Senate subcommittee.
Redfield told the committee the CDC has "clear scientific evidence they work and they are our best defence."
"I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine," Redfeild said.
The vaccine which should be available by the end of year may only be 70 percent effective according to Redfield.
This is not as effective as other vaccines such as the measles vaccination which protects 99 percent of people, however it could be more effective than the influenza vaccine which has about 40-60 percent efficacy.
"If I don't get an immune response the vaccine's not going to protect me. This face mask will," he said.
Redfield told the committee CDC believes masks will be key to containing the coronavirus outbreak in the US.
"These facemasks are the most important powerful public health tool we have and I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in this country, to embrace these face coverings," he says.
"I've said if we did it for six, eight, ten, twelve weeks ago we'd bring this pandemic under control."
The senate hearing comes the day after US President Donald Trump has made comments suggesting that he is not sold on the efficacy of masks at a town hall moderated by ABC news' George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday, September 16.
"There are a lot of people that think the masks are not good," said Trump.
"Who are those people?" asked Stephanopoulos.
"Well, I’ll tell you who those people are," Trump replied.
"The concept of a mask is good, but it also does — you’re constantly touching it. You’re touching your face. You’re touching plates. There are people that don’t think masks are good."
Senator Jack Reed who was questioning Redfield asked for comment about Trump's view on masks.
"He's rejecting this emphatic advice that you give repeatedly and you yourself demonstrate," said the senator.
While the CDC director wouldn't directly comment on the senator's statement, he did say that the CDC would continue to give impartial advice, namely, that masks should be used.
"We're not going to let political influence try to modulate that," said Redfield.
"Once again I think you've refuted the president more eloquently than I've heard," responded the senator.
"You're the expert. Leaders have to depend on expert advice."